Valve Software’s Steam store is the undisputed leader of PC game distribution, though the marketplace is also a portal for buying VR games, software and even traditional movies. Through a partnership with Seattle-based startup Pixvana, Valve is also launching a VR video section aimed at bringing many of the benefits of distributing a 360-degree video on Facebook or Google’s YouTube to PC users consuming content through Steam.
Steam’s 360 Video Player is launching in beta today, integrating Pixvana’s SPIN VR video streaming technology for VR videos. The end result should be a “one-click” solution for watching 360-degree content, using a Rift or Vive headset to check out the video in VR. Soon, they will also add the ability to use a mouse to look around a video on a flat 2D screen.
“Pixvana’s SPIN SDK has been a great asset in our efforts to empower VR content creators and provide an integrated solution for experiencing linear VR content on Steam,” said Valve’s Sean Jenkin in a prepared statement.
The 360 Video Player is built using Pixvana’s software development kit (SDK) for playback and streaming of the content in multiple formats. Pixvana notably developed its own adaptive streaming technology that efficiently delivers video quickly at a high quality. Capturing, editing, and delivering 360-degree videos is a hard problem for filmmakers and content production companies to overcome, and the team-up between Valve and Pixvana aims to give these creators another route beyond Facebook and YouTube for delivering their content at a sweet spot of speed and quality both inside and outside of VR.
“We’re working hard to help all content creators and consumers create immersive experiences that look sharp and feel life-like. We are excited to partner with Valve to bring these solutions to a vast audience so that people everywhere can experience VR’s true potential,” said Pixvana Co-Founder and CEO Forest Key, in a prepared statement.
Some of content available initially includes the Alien: Covenant VR experience, LEGO Batman: The Batmersive Experience, and others.
Here are the features included in the initial launch, according to an FAQ:
- Ingestion of MP4 H.264, PNG and JPG Sequences, AAC and WAV audio files.
- Creation of experiences using the Pixvana SPIN Studio.
- Configuration of the 360 output format including mono, stereo, equirectangular and FOVAS / Frustum (for up to 16K delivery). Stereo FOVAS support coming soon.
- Export of configured 360 video directly to Steam.
- Steam store page and delivery of the video to Steam customers.
- Find ground-breaking 360 videos in the Steam store just like any other Steam content.
- Instant playback of the 360 video in a SteamVR Headset.
- Tracked Input and Keyboard control of video playback.
- Integrated Steam playtime tracking and other native Steam features.